Friday, 12 June 2015

FILM REVIEW: Jurassic World

Another week, another sequel hits cinemas across the globe. With seemingly every single thing being remade, reimagined, rebooted and exploited, it’s no surprise that we finally get to see the fourth instalment of Steven Spielberg’s last flagship franchise. It took fourteen years and several different approaches to finally realise this latest chapter with 38-year old Colin Trevorrow at the helm. John Hammond’s original dream finally came to pass and millions of people from around the world get to experience it on a daily basis. By the time the plot of Jurassic World kicks in, the park itself is a bit of a tired attraction that’s struggling to sustain itself financially. New generations are hardly impressed by old school dinosaurs and that’s why new genetic experiments take place in order to create a more scary and entertaining creatures. That’s how the formidable Indominus Rex is born. And yes, we already know how it goes...

Aside from a new monster to drive the show, there’s no moving away from the used formula. Many action beats and character moments are direct nods to existing sequences from this franchise, as expected. There are no big surprises in store for jaded audiences; we know pretty much exactly what’s going to happen and who might survive this ordeal. The script itself is based on a very Spielbergian construction of setpieces, in which certain things need to happen at specific points in films like this. Colin Trevorrow’s direction is not exactly fresh at any point but it does the job nicely. In this sense, it very much recalls J.J. Abrams’ efforts on Super 8 from 2011. A large group of characters is introduced in this new chapter and one can’t help but feel many of those feel slightly short-changed in an incredibly overcrowded script. They’re mostly reduced to simple variations on different characters we’ve already met with one or two traits that should distinguish them among the crowd.

Having said that, the cast itself is likeable. Bryce Dallas Howard gets the most screen time and gets the hardest job. Her Claire Dearing is a cold businesswoman, John Hammond’s successor and main female action protagonist – all at the same time. Her transformation is the most visible arc in this story and, as such, the most likeable. Chris Pratt is a convincing enough as Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady but his part is also more predictable and not quite as developed. Not that there is any opportunity for that; he mostly fulfils the role alpha male in a big production (also quite literally). Two young brothers, played by Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson, are not as annoying as one might expect, even if they’re journey is another cynical recapitulation of things we’ve already seen in Lex and Tim storyline from the 1993 film. We also get to meet a large group of supporting characters and, among those, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus stand out the most. No Jurassic Park film can do without an arrogant corporate type and/or military type and Colin Trevorrow gives us both in Vincent D’Onofrio’s Vic Hoskins.

It’s a good thing that Trevorrow manages to inject a lot of humour and irony into this otherwise calculated summer romp. When several technicians discuss among themselves the concept of Indominus Rex, one character points out how lame the concept of genetically enhanced dinosaur sounds next to “old-school Jurassic Park”. Here, filmmakers successfully predicted reactions to early trailers. While all previous films contained humour and one-liners, Jurassic World is more self-conscious about it. And that’s largely a successful attempt to win over cinema audiences.

One of the key elements are creatures themselves. Indominus Rex itself isn’t quite as interesting visually; even Spinoraurus from Joe Johnston’s Jurassic Park III had a bit more personality that separated it from other beasts. This one, by its very hybrid nature, doesn’t linger in mind as much. It’s interesting that the fakeness and accuracy of resurrected dinosaurs is also addressed in the film by the returning character Dr. Henry Wu (played by B.D. Wong). He points out that they are essentially fictional creations, a result of educated guesswork. This one, almost throwaway, element neatly resolves much of a conflict between rigorous scientists and dreaming filmmakers and it also plays nicely into the ethical angle of this concept.

One of the spectacular selling points of Steven Spielberg’s film was the visual idea itself: seeing man and dinosaur together in a realistic fashion. Since then, technology has moved forward. There’s no more need for excessive use of physical puppets that played such a crucial part 22 years ago. But one truly misses the great artistry of Stan Winston’s animatronics. As sophisticated and convincing as computer graphics can be, it’s still not the same. Nobody is impressed by CGI anymore. That aspect itself forms an interesting parallel to the story in which many kids are hardly impressed by what they’re seeing, not matter how breathtaking.

The films puts in a lot of references to the original one, of course. That cannot be avoided. But it does so with relative restraint. It’s a clever idea that John Hammond’s Jurassic Park is a relic of its time, not unlike the animals themselves. Along the ride, we get to see some familiar elements, overgrown by jungle and completely forgotten by modern caretakers. John Williams’ iconic music is also treated as creation from another era, almost completely forgotten in modern digital world. His two primary themes (along with a cameo of The Lost World tune) bring back the element of nostalgia, without overstating the point too much.

In the world of sequels and reboots, latest Jurassic Park film certainly doesn’t feel like an event anymore. The original was a gimmick, true, but it managed to turn this disadvantage into a truly dazzling spectacle. It gave its generation a classic that comes along every now and then. It’s worth pointing out that Jurassic World isn’t that. Not even close. But filmmakers are also smart enough to address that head on. They recapitulate a lot of elements with new twists, as it happens with continuations like this, but also manage to look at thus franchise from certain distance. While it might feel slightly cynical in its self-conscious resurrection, Jurassic World still manages to entertain. And that’s more than can be said about its two predecessors.

- Karol

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Monday, 8 June 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Life Moves Pretty Fast - Hadley Freeman

There are certain films which leave an indelible impression on the memory after you watch them for the first time. Back in the days when Sky+ boxes were a thing of the future and the only way to record things on the TV was to wind up the VHS Player, I set a shiny new blank tape up to record a film. That film was Wing Commander because I was very much going through a Freddie Prinze Jr phase (shush).

The brilliance of the VHS recording system, something that has since been lost with the more precise recording equipment of this century, was that sometimes you ended up with whatever came after your initial choice too. In this case, it was The Breakfast Club. I got to the end of another enjoyable viewing of Wing Commander (shush again, I like it and revel in its naffness) and, hearing the nice BBC announcer say that The Breakfast Club was due next, I settled back down for a film that sounded like it might involve pancakes. And I like pancakes. 

Instead, what I got was the John Hughes masterpiece that didn't involve pancakes, but sushi, Barry Manilow's wardrobe and a collection of misfits who I adore to this day. It was one of the first films I'd seen in my awkward teenage years that actually spoke to me about the difficulties of trying to be cool and 15 at the same time. I fell in love with Bender because who doesn't love a brash yet sensitive burnout who wears plaid and a grotesque amount of demin? I empathised with Bryan and the comments about his deeply uncool desire to get good grades because I too was an insufferable swot. And then there's Allison who remains to this day the kind of social outcast I always wanted to be, but was never quite cool or confident enough to become. 

These were my people. Those characters coupled with an endlessly quotable script saw the film enter my favourites list immediately, even with the lack of actual pancakes. John Hughes would also go on to become one of my favourite directors. 

When I cracked open Hadley Freeman's ode to 80s cinema, Life Moves Pretty Fast, I knew immediately that I was in the company of a kindred spirit and settled down to read what turned out to be a pleasant surprise of a book. The subtitle, "The lessons we learned from eighties movies (and why we don't learn from the movies anymore)" may create an initial trepidation regarding rose-tinted nostalgia, but the result is that the book is a fairly well-balanced mix of that nostalgic fondness mixed with genuine insight and interesting analyses. 

It does of course help that a fair few of my favourite movies are featured within the book. Dedicating a chapter to The Princess Bride is always a swift way to get me on side (because it's obviously the best film ever made - unlike many films, I don't remember seeing it for the first time because I'm fairly certain I've been watching it since birth), not to mention another on When Harry Met Sally (because it's obviously the second best film ever made). 

Yet it's not just the content, but the way it is written that makes Life Moves Pretty Fast such an entertaining read. Freeman's easygoing prose feels more like you're having a conversation over a pint with a friend rather than burying yourself in some weighty tome, especially the fun Top 10 lists at the end of each chapter. I found myself nodding gleefully at several parts in the book, not least of which the moment in which young Dan Aykroyd is declared to be sexy (he was Elwood Blues; of course he's sexy). Given that the best place to have highly enthusiastic, all-gesticulation conversations about film is in the pub, this is definitely to the book's advantage. It's pretty much a film geek's dream.

Freeman is also not afraid to tackle some more weighty issues in her analyses either. The feminist focus of the book arrives at a particularly interesting time when it comes to representation of female characters on screen, given the recent debates surrounding Avengers: Age of Ultron (oddly enough, Freeman's analysis of modern superhero blockbusters is the one section I don't really agree with). Whilst there are examples of bigger blockbusters getting better, it's not hard to disagree that we have gone backwards since Sally had her deli moment or Andie refused to change one iota to get Blane to continue dating her. 

The book allows us to celebrate those characters, many of them now iconic in popular culture. Freeman's analysis of Dirty Dancing as a surreptitiously major feminist work in cotton candy clothing and her conversations with the film's screenwriter, the great Eleanor Bergstein, are a particular highlight, demonstrating the power of letting women tell their own stories behind the scenes. The feminist focus may run through the book, but a wide variety of topics are tackled also from the way in which race is represented on screen, the decline of mid-budget films and issues of masculinity in cinema. There's even a list of 80s films that Freeman regretted not mentioning. My heart soared at the albeit too brief inclusion of St. Elmo's Fire.

In a world where cynicism reigns supreme, particularly in the film world when snark is seemingly more regularly dealt out than praise, Freeman's book storms in like a breath of gleefully positive air. It's hard not to get swept up in the sheer amount of love within these pages, but it's grounded in carefully thought out analysis that keeps it both conscientious and relevant. I can pretty much guarantee that the first thing you'll want to do upon finishing Life Moves Pretty Fast is finally get round to seeing or rewatching the films mentioned. As for me, I've got a glorious Reiner/Hughes marathon planned. 

And for anyone else with fond memories of VHS days, I really do recommend picking up the paperback edition rather than the ebook (see above). It's gorgeous.

- Becky

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DVD REVIEW: Whiplash

Pursuing dreams and working hard in order to realise them are probably the most enduring myths of today’s society. From a very young age, we are told about the stories of success and how important it is to “stay true to yourself.” Films are primarily guilty of perpetuating this worldview, which makes a lot of younger people feel inadequate and increasingly frustrated with their lives. American cinema is full of such stories with Hollywood being a grand epitome of that. All of which makes it refreshing when a film comes along to challenge the established assumptions. Or at least has a decency to leave a question mark at the end.

Whiplash is a debut of thirty year old American filmmaker Damien Chazelle. Once an aspiring musician himself, he drew from his personal experiences to create a story about young ambitious jazz drummer Andrew Neiman who gets into the elite jazz band of notorious Terence Fletcher. It would seem that this relationship would lead to a fairly standard “master and apprentice” development. But, thankfully, things are quite as simple in Whiplash. It starts off as a fairly conventional drama in which main protagonist will be challenged through many trails recalling Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey. Well, it sort of does. But with a twist.

The film is almost entirely powered by the acting duo of J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller. Both of these performance are absolutely stellar. They create a complex relationship that escapes typical genre clich├ęs and makes viewers question their preconception about character motivation. Chazelle cleverly juggles conventions and blurs the line between honest passion and psychopathy. It’s not quite clear who is more dangerous: the abusive teacher who’ll use anything against you or the greedy and increasingly arrogant pupil who is willing to sacrifice everything in pursuit of greatness? Simmons is delightful, and occasionally genuinely frightening, in his balancing act between icy cold stillness and overexpression. Teller, on the other hand, creates a fragile but determined individual that is slowly consumed by his own egotistical desires. In all fairness, it might be the more difficult part of the two.

As can be expected, music is a constant element and several standards (including Whiplash itself) set a rhythm and pulse for ensuing drama. And while jazz fills its every corner, one can’t help but wonder that Chazelle’s film has almost nothing to do with music as such and is about something else entirely. Andrew’s struggle is as much about his career as it is about his soul. Indeed, this obsession with perfection brings back to mind the main character of Michael Mann’s Doctor Faustus and similar ethical questions about artistic genius. But, despite obvious similarities, the resolution to Neiman’s story is even less clear. Perhaps a wise choice.

For a small drama, mostly taking places in unglamorous rooms, the film is extremely well staged and shot. Chazelle manages to frame each mundane location in a way that makes his work look polished and stylish. Not an easy task. The chamber-like musical performance scenes are elevated into true showpieces, with the final 10-minute musical sequence being a particular highlight. Very few words are spoken but tension is up in the air. Fantastic piece of cinema. Additionally, pacing is impeccable: narrative moves at the brisk pace of big band jazz music and it doesn’t really waste time, ever. Two main characters meet pretty much in the very first scene and the premise itself is very much set up straight away.

With so many films recycling old storylines, it’s nice to see a film that subverts expectations in interesting ways. These might be only slight details and subtle “adjustments” to well established conventions, true, but that’s more than many younger filmmakers can offer us. Especially in areas as rigourous as “coming of age” stories. His piece might not be revolutionary in any way but Damien Chazelle skilfully crafted a sleek, elegant and intelligent debut film that’s powered by two excellent performances. Judging by the warm reception across the board, it’s safe to say he kicked off his directing career in style.

Whiplash is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

- Karol

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Monday, 25 May 2015

FILM REVIEW: Spooks: The Greater Good

Four years since the ending of the hit BBC TV series Spooks, comes The Greater Good, a feature length adventure for MI5’s section D. We follow Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), the long-serving head of department, as he incurs the wrath of the CIA, not to mention his own team, when a major terrorist Adem Qasim (Elyes Gabe) escapes on his watch.
In disgrace, and with an incomplete mission on his conscience, Harry disappears. 

Concerned, her Majesty’s bigwigs convince ex-agent Will Holloway, played in role-share between Kit Harington and Jon Snow’s hair, with the hope that his personal connection to Harry will prove an advantage (that's Will, not the hair). Naturally though, Harry being Harry, nothing is as straightforward as it seems. The two must negotiate a tangled web of morality, laws and loyalty as London is threatened by a terrorist attack, and the future of MI5 itself hangs in the balance.

The Greater Good is full of twists, turns and surprises, and largely remains true to the TV series. The franchise’s attitude to killing off its characters has always been gung-ho at best, and this is true here. There are also some fantastic set pieces and shots of London to feast your eyes on. Rightly or wrongly, Spooks was always about defending our capital from malign outside forces, and again, that’s exactly what we get in this feature length outing.

Kit Harington is very good as the tortured moral compass of the film, although his character could have been pushed much further. In fact there was very little in the way of character exploration full stop, unless that character was Harry. The TV series made him its focus in later years, and rightly so, but here it felt at the expense of everyone else on screen. All the other agents, looked and felt a little flat. I also feel like the writers probably owe Lara Pulver an apology, but that’s by the by.

On a wider lebel, it was also a little lacking in terms of what terrorist Adem Qasim really wanted, other than revenge. Like it or not, we’re much more aware of the people, and the human stories, behind extremism than we were when Spooks was last on our screens, and we needed more than a cardboard cut-out terror leader to reflect that.

The plot was decent enough, although nothing that you couldn’t really have worked out for yourself. We’re so used to seeing Harry going against the orders of his superiors, that this didn’t really feel like anything new. As a result it was a little too linear, with too much character over content, if anything. Which I’m not normally one to complain about. In fact, dare I say it, it all felt a little too Hollywood.

On the plus side, there are a few things in there that will make long-time fans very, very happy. I squeaked with joy at the re-appearance of one character in particular. There was also some convincing exploration of the psychology, and ultimately the loneliness of working for the security services. Harry’s reference to the shortness of the list of ex-spies he trusts, when you exclude ‘the mad and the drunk and the dead’, was particularly telling.

If The Greater Good suffers from anything, it’s simply not quite having the heart of the TV series, the ending of which was so perfect, that, creatively at least, you can’t help but feel like they were wrong to tamper with it at all.

It’s an enjoyable film and worth seeing, especially as an existing fan, but ultimately it’s just not quite as good as an episode of the show it was based on. Not enough to make you angry, or complain that you wasted your hard earned money on a ticket, but enough to make you a little bit sad. Sad that these characters have been trotted out again for our amusement for seemingly little more than commercial gain. 

But mostly sad that we can’t see this slick, subtle and clever TV show on our small screens anymore.

- Jen



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Monday, 18 May 2015

FILM REVIEW: Mad Max: Fury Road

With so many films and franchises being resurrected on an almost daily basis, it is no surprise to see the engine roaring George Miller series back on big screen. It’s been an entire 30 years since Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome graced cinemas and there were rumours popping up, ever since 1998, about plans to realise yet another chapter in this post-apocalyptic saga. Obviously, audiences learned to tamper their expectation levels in the past two decades after or so. Few of 80s properties managed to reignite their old flame, the original crew’s involvement notwithstanding. No need to give examples on endless list to illustrate this point…

Mad Max: Fury Road is sort of a sequel to old films but doesn’t need to be viewed as such. Other than main character’s quick flashbacks, the plot and overall premise has very little to do with those. The main character is being played by Tom Hardy in this outing, thus taking over from Mel Gibson (who was apparently attached to the project up until 2003). Max is entangled in the plot after being captured by the War Boys army of monstrous cult leader King Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne). He is basically only kept alive to provide blood for a sick boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). At the same time, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leaves with a mission to collect gasoline with her War Rig vehicle. But, as it turns out, her plans are completely different. She decides to escape and that leads to a massive chase, with Max being dragged into it against his will.

The film itself is one gigantic action sequence, with few quiet moments. And for people expecting some sort of character development or thicker narrative, it might be wise to avoid this monstrosity at all costs. Which, of course, is not to say they should, really. Yes, Mad Max: Fury Road might be an excess in action and violence, with little emphasis put on the script. But it does so in such a cinematic way, one just simply cannot resist being dragged into this madness. The dialogue is often lost amidst the sound roaring engines, explosions and screaming. But then, those lines are mostly functional and give the audience only basic expository information. The film is pretty much told solely through its visuals. And, no matter your cinematic preferences, that in itself is a thing rarely witnessed these days.

Similarly to recent The Raid series Gareth Evans, Miller finds artistic beauty in violence and destruction. There is a poetic, almost balletic quality to his sequences. What is happening on screen might be beyond ridiculous but the director guides the viewer through his clever camera work and dynamic editing that. Viewer can always tell what is happening on screen at any given moment. Besides, Fury Road is an orgy of physical effects, stunts and pyrotechnics. Yes, there is some CGI here and there to enhance the world. But it never succumbs to this, whether you want to admit or not, cheap film trickery. Quite the contrary, you can almost smell the sweat, taste the blood and feel the impact. Indeed, the production process behind this project must be a geek heaven for cinema enthusiasts.

Special mention must go to the excellent production design. While all previous three films were made in the same vein, they would never be able to be realised on such a scale. Miller’s new opus has a truly epic feel and it dazzles with detail. Even though, story remains really sketchy all the way through, there is a sense that dozen others could be told about each aspect or location we get to see along this fast paced ride. It’s an universe that can be expanded upon and there are several hints of where it could go next. The overall fantastical look brings to mind the works of Guillermo del Toro. There is a similar sense of texture to the designs - both real and otherworldly.

Filmmakers are also endlessly inventive when subverting mundane imagery we know from our daily lives and applying different meanings to them. One of the most common visual elements are associated with gasoline and car machinery. For instance, steering wheels are treated as religious objects and insignias of war. They seem to serve a similar purpose to Christian cross in Mad Max universe. Indeed, the entire cult of Immorten Joe revolves around those types of themes: V8 engine is a deity, silver car paint serves as a symbol of warrior and martyr. These sort of distortions are not completely unlike the ones found in several films of Terry Gilliam. He seems to be yet another major influence on Fury Road, both in the feverish density of each frame, as well as quirky sense of humour.

Among this chaos are two central actors. Both Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron supply the cool, while everything else is set ablaze. Furiosa’s icy cold stare becomes the most prevalent and lasting image after the film is long over and her determination is what fuels the narrative. A lot has been said about the female energy to finally fuel (pun intended) this male orgy of destruction. And while this is certainly the case, the central character is very much in common with other terrific heroines of cinema past – Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley. About time we got an update on this trope, especially as well done as this.

On the other hand, Max is a bystander, a reluctant hero. Similarly to Mel Gibson in old films, Hardy plays him as a man of few words and even those come out of his mouth with great difficulty. At the very beginning, he is clearly less than a man. More of a beast, really. But, as the story progresses, there is more focus and motivation. The tortured memories of painful past ultimately push the character into regaining the heroic persona. It could be even said that Fury Road is as much about female empowerment (as illustrated through Furiosa) as it is about male rebirth (which is the case with both Max and Nux). The film strikes a refreshing balance between those two, basically presenting them as equals. For once.

The one’s enjoyment of the new Mad Max will largely come down to one thing: whether one can tolerate an action film that doesn’t pretend it’s anything more than that. Miller clearly makes no apologies about it and neither should viewer expect to find subtlety and refinement. Normally, this kind of approach might be posed as an issue and it does apply to most blockbusters like this. But, because of its visual potency and horrific beauty, Fury Road is so much better than that. It might come as close to pure cinema as any action film ever made. And, frankly, it’s hard to imagine anybody doing a much better job than this.

- Karol

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Monday, 11 May 2015

FEATURE: Spying According To Spooks

For ten series, Spooks (or MI5 in the States) has brought us some of the most amazing drama the BBC has had to offer. From the sublime to ridiculous, we saw spies being all heroic, spies going rogue and the officers of the fictional Section D get dispatched in increasingly interesting ways (although they did have to work hard to top Series One's chip fat fryer...). 

With the new movie, Spooks: The Greater Good looming on the horizon, we decided to take a look at how luminaries such as Harry Pearce or Tom Quinn stop as many secret terrorist organisations, Americans and generally anyone else who threatened our national security as well as they did over those ten years. So we at Assorted Buffery have decided to bring you our comprehensive(ish) guide to How to Spy according to the characters of Spooks.

Please be warned; major spoilers for the Spooks TV series ahead.

Sir Harry Pearce (Peter Firth)

How to Spy: Drink whisky, and lots of it. If you've had a particularly bad day, simply drink more whisky and listen to some stirring classical music, just to add to the pensive mood. As capable of falling in love with colleague Ruth as you are ordering the assassination of a confirmed terrorist, you keep Section D running and let's face it, you're just impossible to kill.

Defining moment: Poisoning the Home Secretary to avenge the (actual) death of Ros Myers 

Secret weapon: Whisky. And the best phone voice ever. 

Current Status: Indestructible. Like Captain Scarlet.

Tom Quinn (Matthew Macfadyen)

How to Spy: Always turn on your morals at the least appropriate moment, then run into the sea in a blind panic and turn up on a street corner somewhere a week later disguised as a tramp.

Defining moment: Returning to kill off a loose end at the very last moment of the series, stealing the finale with his dashing good looks. 

Secret Weapon: A voice that could melt chocolate.

Current Status: God knows...

Danny Hunter (David Oyelowo)

How to Spy: Look cool. Then look a bit confused. Flirt with Sam. Look longingly after Zoe. Look a bit cool again and then die a heroic death.  

Defining moment: "Fuck you, you death-worshiping fascist!"

Secret Weapon: Winnie the Pooh (no, seriously)

Current Status: Triumphantly dead.

Zoe Reynolds (Keeley Hawes)

How to Spy: Secret identities never really worry you. I mean, who wouldn't want to tell a fit Welsh photographer your real name, whilst working an undercover mission on which people's lives depend? Besides, you can always escape "off-the-books" to South America should you completely balls it all up.

Defining Moment: Proving kicking ass and taking names wasn't just a boys' playing field.

Secret weapon: "The tight blue sweatshirt"

Current Status: Somewhere on the Inca Trail.

Ruth Evershed (Nicola Walker)

How to Spy: Panic. Then look longingly at Harry. Refer to GCHQ for no real reason other than exposition. Tell Harry what to do whilst looking longingly at him. Then look worried. Save the day with your wicked research skills.

Defining Moment: Saving Section D's arse so many times that she should be a national treasure. 

Secret weapon: Painstaking attention to detail.

Current Status: *Sob* We're still grieving this one.

Malcolm Wynn-Jones (Hugh Simon)

How to Spy: Without you, the MI5 technical department looked like a member of a boyband (Exposition-Tariq, I'm looking at you). Whether coming up with a convenient technical device to save the day or just hammering away at a keyboard looking like an expert movie hacker, Section D crumbles without you. So much so, they bring you out of retirement.

Defining Moment: Losing it at the death *sob* of Colin, his tech-wizard partner in crime.

Secret Weapon: Mad typing skills and the kind of computer graphics only seen on TV.

Current Status: Being awesome. 

Ros Myers (Hermione Norris)

How to Spy: You are always right. A universe in which you are ever not right simply does not exist. Be tough, kick arse, get your own way and if all else fails simply fake your own death. 

Defining Moment: Oh you know, casually coming back from the dead.

Secret Weapon: Withering sarcasm.

Current Status: Dead. Again.

Adam Carter (Rupert Penry-Jones)

How to Spy: Remember, your wardrobe is your most important asset. That, and a damn good designer stubble chin. Always charm, smile and persuade your way out of trouble. When in doubt, forget your designer labels and get naked.

Defining Moment: Cementing his position in the team by making it to a secret meeting using only a series of costume changes and sandwich board messages.

Secret Weapon: That piercing stare.

Current Status: Exploded.

Zafar Younis (Raza Jaffrey)

How to Spy: You are so damn badass you bring a baseball bat to a gunfight. Literally. So badass that getting rid of you in a suitably outrageous way was just impossible because you beat a guy into submission with a baseball bat. One convenient kidnapping plot later and you fade away into Section D memorial obscurity. But it's OK. Because you are awesome. 

Defining Moment: Dealing with a racist who'd already locked him in a cupboard and accused our Zaf of attempting to down an airplane.

Secret Weapon: A freaking baseball bat.

Current Status: We refuse to believe those photos.

Lucas North (Richard Armitage)

How to Spy: Being a spy is far easier than it looks. In fact it's often best not to use your brain at all. Rely on your superiors whenever you can, run into the odd moving vehicle and not to worry if you lose your target along the way. Oh and your name is JOHN by the way, that's JOHN. 

Defining Moment: Attempting to kill everyone in Section D. Including Harry. Seriously, who does that?

Secret Weapon: Going batshit crazy at inappropriate moments.

Current Status: Very dead. Which to be honest, is probably for the best.

Sarah Caulfield (Genevieve O'Reilly)

How to Spy: Perfect accents are a sign of a spy with too much time on her hands. Just go in there wavering Bostonian vowels a blazing and shag the nearest dimwit who's a few handguns short of an arsenal. Let's face it, we all knew she was a bad egg even before she somehow managed to throw a man twice her size down a fancy stair well. 

Defining Moment: Travelling from Boston to New York via Georgia in the space of about 30 seconds. Her vocal coach needs sacking.

Secret Weapon: Hulk-like strength without the unflattering green complexion. 

Current Status: Assassinated (Cor, they don't last very long do they?)

Dimitri Levendis (Max Brown)

How to Spy: It's a tough life being a sidekick, especially one who has all the character development of a wooden spoon. So give it your best frown, remind everyone you haven't yet turned into a cardboard cutout and only show emotion when defusing a bomb... again.

Defining Moment: We only actually remember him defusing a bomb and possibly shagging a target.

Secret Weapon: A well-practiced frown.

Current Status: Desperately seeking a personality.

Erin Watts (Lara Pulver)

How to Spy: Eyeliner. Heels and eyeliner. That's the secret. Oh and a damn good blow dry. 

Defining moment: Who are you again?

Secret Weapon: Erm, unhelpful killer heels?

Current Status: Getting her hair done and then sashaying into Spooks: The Greater Good.

Disclaimer: We hold no responsibility for anyone who actually attempts to spy according to the above techniques. Leave it to the sharp-suited professionals and catch Spooks: The Greater Good in cinemas on May 13th, with Kit Harington and the indomitable Peter Firth returning as Harry Pearce.

- Jen and Becky

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